In 2016, DC changed their logo. Many columns, blogs and articles discussed this and camps remain strongly divided. This was the third significant logo change in a period of 10 years.
The previous logo was only a little over 3 years old.
The most stalwart logo DC ever had was the iconic Milton Glaser "DC Bullet" which graced the covers of the company's comics for 28 years. And while Glaser is praised for his work, it wasn't really a great leap from the logo that had existed prior to that (he added two more stars, concentric circles, outlined the letters "DC" and tilted it).
Here are the company's logos as they've appeared over the last 4-fifths of a century (including the short-lived All-American bullets, which differentiated properties such as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash as part of a different company and the 3-issue-long Romance Titles bullet):
As you can see, the most recent wave of new logos is not the only time that DC has changed its "corporate look" on the covers of DC magazines within a short period of time. Even during the 21 years that the "Superman•DC•National Comics" bullet existed, there was a memorable change. For issues cover dated February 1966, DC adopted the "Go-Go Checks" at the top of their comics to distinguish them from the competition wherever they were displayed. The look, however, was abandoned by the September 1967 cover date:
In 1970, however, between the loss of the go-go checks and the adoption of the early form of the bullet circle, there was a period during which house art dominated the upper left corner of every DC comic.
Only 5 years after abandoning the "Go-Go Checks", DC changed their logo again. In July 1972, the first version of the DC logo which spawned the Glaser Bullet appeared.
This was what I refer to as the "Character Logo". DC had previously shown its characters in lieu of a logo early on - the earliest example of which was in 1939 when Superman was drawn near the top of Action Comics #16, which did not otherwise feature him on the cover (the last issue of Action Comics to have that distinction, BTW).
Toward the end of 1968, character images began to pop up at the top of the comic cover near the title more and more frequently. But beginning with cover date October 1970 (so, these comics would have appeared during the Summer of 1970) the old, tried-and-true DC logo disappeared and was replaced solely by new (and consistent) character images in bullets above their name alongside "DC" in a new font. Like so:
Mostly drawn by Murphy Anderson, these logos were action poses that captured the attention readers (at least, they did my then-8-year-old brain). The art was popular enough that these logos were reprinted as stickers after they left the covers of DC comics in 1973 as "Super Friend Stick-Ons", which were offered in the pages of DC comics (now rather collectible on eBay).You'll note that the font of "DC" changed and that this was a slight adaptation of the DC Special logo (sans serif - see the adaptation of this logo in the page's title above).
I should mention that the above serif-styled DC Special logo did not change with the rest of the line in 1970, 1972 or 1974. In fact, it was not until early 1977, after which the new "DC Bullet" became the "DC" in the title (cover date Feb/Mar 1977).
Further, in the title boxes attached to the "Character Bullets", the font for both "DC" and the character/book name did change from title to title, so it’s currently difficult to determine whether the offices considered the “DC” portion of the logo enough of a trademark to be concerned about depicting with any consistency:
As you can see, some similar fonts with different thickness to the lines and some other fonts that, while similar to each other, have wider or narrower cap depths (how wide the capital letters are).
At any rate, these new logos appeared simultaneously with Jack Kirby's arrival at DC on the comics rack. Jack Kirby - along with several other writers and artists at DC - heralded the arrival of The Bronze Age of Comics. Even Superman got a revamp 3 months into this period. He got a new job (TV News Anchor), new boss (Morgan Edge) and lost part of his powers during the Realm of Quarrm or "Sand-Superman" saga by Denny O'Neil, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.
It was a time of change. Less than a year later, all DC cover prices were increased to 25¢, but with that increase came the call of "Only 25¢ Bigger and Better", "48 Pages only 25¢" and "52 BIG Pages - Don't Take Less!” It was also the time of the 100 Page Super Spectacular. Suddenly, the history of the DC Universe was open to young comics buyers with reprints from the Golden Age of Comics, the Silver Age of Comics and the current age, as well. Superman could appear in two separate stories in one comic. Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes could now share the Superboy title, while Supergirl also shared hers with the Legionnaires.
It was a grand time for the Justice League of America, Teen Titans & other super-heroes, as well as the return the Horror genre. Humor, Romance, Wild West and War comics were still prevalent, as well. More stories were being published by DC than any other comic book company each month.
I’ve done my best to reproduce these with great care where I’ve been able. Many sources for this kind of art have proven difficult to find and even the ComicArt-L group has been at a loss to locate the original sources of this art.
Be that as it may, a few items were capable of being found, such as “Super Friend Stick-Ons” from 1973, which utilized this art for as many Super-Heroes as was possible. For some of the more obscure titles from the period, I had to work from either a high-res scan of a cover or original cover art where possible. That said, it hasn’t been easy (or consistent).
Here are some examples from the more popular titles of your most mainstream super-heroes:
The Kirby titles included Jimmy Olsen - their logos appeared thusly:
Yeah, Jimmy looks a little out of place with them, huh?
Here are some more of the main super-hero titles:
Further, there were your alterations on existing logos (like Supergirl) and then heroes that appeared in other titles (like the Legion of Super-Heroes and Batgirl):
I decided to cheat a bit and re-create the Wonder Woman corner art. Since I have no resource to obtain the original art any clearer than the smaller clip art from a piece of original art that I used and "cleaned up", I wanted a nicer look to it. To that end, I used several Wonder Woman covers from the era (which are all Dick Giordano pieces) to provide a sort of "Frankenstein" version. This is close to what it would have looked like, had Mr. Giordano created the corner art, side-by-side with the version above:
In the style of DC's Justice League of America's floating heads - here's the original 7, plus the others who appeared in the book around this time, and, as a bonus, the intrepid Teen Titans of old (working on getting a better version of the Titans - stay tuned):
Romance titles were also present in DC's lineup of 1970:
Digression: in 1972, when the logo changed again, the Romance titles did their own thing again (as they had in 1970) and changed the standard DC logo to a heart:
And just as ever-present as love, so was war:
As were Mystery/Horror, the Wild West, Sci-Fi and a bit of Jungle Adventure on the side:
Some of my favorite pieces are those which did not appear as character logos - either because they shared a book with someone else, or didn't have a title in which they appeared regularly at all (or until 1972):
Cover date June 1972 was the last time these logos were seen on the covers of comics. This approach had lasted nearly 3 years and ended at the same time that the 25¢, 52-page issues which had dominated the comics racks disappeared.
When the new logo appeared in 1972, with a 20¢ cover price and drastically reduced page count, it was a disappointment to many (myself included). Gone were the beautifully thick comics with multiple stories and golden & silver age reprints. Gone were sturdy comics which gave way to what now amounted to... well, pamphlets. It was the end of an age, but - of course - not the Bronze Age, which would wend on for almost another decade.
To review, here’s how long DC kept each appearance of their masthead during this period:
1938-39: Characters/Name in Bullet on Cover – ~2 Years
1940: The Original Bullet – 1 Year
1941: The Bullet Includes the Word "Superman" – 8 Years
1949: Superman/National Comics in Bullet – 23 Years
1955: Same as above, but adding red (included in the 23 year count)
1967: Go-Go Checks (with above) – ~2 Years
1968: Characters Near Titles (still with the 1949/1955 Bullet) – ~3 Years
1970: Character Logo – ~2 Years
1972: Block Print DC Bullet – 2 Years
1974: Adapted DC Bullet, adding Stars – 3 Years
1977: Glaser DC Bullet – 28 Years
2005: The DC Spin – 7 Years
2012: The DC Page Turner – 4 Years
2016: Updated DC Block Print Bullet – 4 Years and Counting
Granted, between these character logos and the Glaser Bullet, the latter 3 weren’t really drastic changes from each other. Adding "The Line of Super-Stars" and actual stars to the logo was a slight change. And while the Glaser Bullet added concentric circles, two more stars and an outline to the "DC" letters, then tilted it - that wasn't that drastic of a change, either. But these were changes, nonetheless – and the overall look shifted very quickly during that period of the early 70s. So, there’s no real reason to be up in arms about how quickly the tides have shifted recently.
The staying power of the new logo, however – that’s another argument for a time well into the future.
At any rate, I hope that you enjoyed this trip through the past. I sure did!
Brian G. Philbin
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